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Adapting to climate change is a critical element of risk management

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Adapting to the impacts associated with climate change is a critical element of risk management for businesses, communities, government and individuals. Therefore, four years of research has been conducted using workshops and interviews to identify the range of issues that are affecting people’s ability to adapt to climate change.

This work shows that short-term thinking and a focus on familiar risks dominate current perceptions of climate change. These perceptions persist despite substantial amounts of research demonstrating the negative impacts of climate change and these impacts being communicated to stakeholders through various media.

New strategic risk-management initiatives will be required going forward as the impacts of climate change increase and also start to affect a wider range of business and societal activities. These new initiatives will need to address both existing and emerging risks as well as catering for the dynamic nature of some risks.

“… With a few notable exceptions, the private sector has done little to consider changing climate risks on business operations and serious questions about public and private adaptive capacity remain unanswered.”  

There is also a need for more information to plug knowledge gaps in how to adapt decision-making processes, especially in dynamic social and economic contexts.
The current study confirmed the known effects of climate change on New Zealand businesses and also expanded on previous research. Interviews were conducted across a wide range of businesses, local government and other parties, and found that climate change will have direct impacts on primary-sector businesses. There will also be substantial indirect impacts on many other business, such as hydroelectricity and tourism.

A key aspect of this study is that it highlights the limitations of previous work, which investigated impacts on communities, sectors and the environment separately. Thus, the functional linkages and dependencies between the different sectors or communities, the environment (e.g. land and water), and public and private infrastructure have been overlooked in the past. For example, nexus issues, such as water supply and discharge, have received only limited attention to date. The linkages and dependencies identified here mean that climate-change events will have cascade effects that will affect multiple systems, including governance. 

  • The implications for climate-change adaptation arising from the current analysis are that:
    current tools are ill-suited for addressing the long-term time frame and associated uncertainty of projected climate change on businesses, infrastructure and communities
  • tools that can help guide integrated decision making are lacking, and
  • adaptation planning is impeded due to fragmented governance across scales, and between and within organisations.

Overall, the capacity and capability to address climate-change adaptation are not only limited across organisations but also vary widely within organisations, and are influenced by organisation size, focus and resources.

Lawrence, J., Blackett, P., Cradock-Henry, N., Flood, S., Greenaway, A. and Dunningham, A. (2016). Synthesis Report RA4: Enhancing capacity and increasing coordination to support decision making. Climate Change Impacts and Implications (CCII) for New Zealand to 2100. MBIE contract C01X1225.


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